Culver’s town council voted to reconsider a decision made at its previous meeting regarding private, non-commercial wind energy conversion systems (commonly known as windmills or wind turbines), at its most recent meeting May 13.
The decision was the result of discussion prompted by audience member Marlene Mahler, who criticized the council’s move two weeks earlier to deny proposed ordinances limiting the height and other specifications on the turbines within the town’s two-mile jurisdiction, and to additionally recommend to the Culver plan commission that it draft new legislation completely banning all wind energy conversion systems.
Mahler noted the plan commission had held multiple public hearings and put in “hard work” to arrive at the proposed specifications, which limited the towers in height, location, and size of land.
However, said Mahler, a complete ban on personal windmills (commercial turbines are banned across the entirety of Marshall County) creates a hardship for local farmers, including her own family.
She said there are two windmills, approximately 60 feet each in height, which she said are “not an eyesore (or) huge,” on her 300-acre family farm, and they’re located a half-mile from the public road.
“You can’t afford to run electricity back to water the cattle,” she said. “Any excess water runs into our pond. We can’t let the cattle drink from the ditches; it pollutes the lake. And now you want us to get rid of our windmills.”
Mahler acknowledged, when asked, that existing windmills like hers could likely be grandfathered into being allowed to remain in place, but she asked what would happen if the family needed to drill another well.
Council member Ginny Munroe said she spoke to town manager Dave Schoeff after the previous council meeting, and they discussed that some windmills can be as short as five to ten feet tall.
“I would be totally open to a reasonable size,” she said. “To me, 60 feet (high) is reasonable; we have 30 foot buildings in town. But I don’t want to see 140 to 180 feet.”
Council member Lynn Overmyer pointed out she made a similar argument to Mahler’s at the prior meeting, and audience member Russ Mason, of Culver’s plan commission, noted several citizens in the audience at the previous meeting were not open to lowered height restrictions, but insisted on a complete ban, “at the last minute, after a whole year of working on this.”
Mason suggested someone from the council should attend the next plan commission meeting and express the council’s willingness to consider revisions on the ordinance, rather than the complete ban it voted to recommend.
“Unless they have some consensus from you (shifting from a total ban),” he added, “they won’t put forth something just to be rejected by you.”
Audience member Kevin Berger explained that part of the intention behind the 140-foot height restriction in the proposed ordinance was to match Marshall County’s existing ordinance. This, he said, was primarily aimed at making it easier for the town to claim rights to the entirety of its two-mile zoning jurisdiction in the future, something which could be markedly complicated if the town and county specifications don’t line up. He noted expansion to the two-mile boundary is in the current Culver comprehensive plan being considered for finalization next month.
The council, in the end, voted formally to inform the plan commission that the council is reconsidering the total windmill ban it suggested previously. Prior to the discussion, the council had already passed the plan commission’s proposed ordinance, but with language pertaining to windmills stripped away (remaining changes pertained to carports, setbacks, and sign restrictions).
The next plan commission meeting, it was noted, is scheduled for May 20. Mason noted site plans for a new bakery on South Main Street will also be on the meeting’s agenda, which might be of some interest to the public.
The council also held a public hearing regarding application for federal funds (administered through the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs) towards the town’s $1.5 million water utility project.
As explained by Shannon McLeod of grant administration firm Priority Project Resources, the grant would add around 3,000 square feet to the town’s 56 year old water plant building replace water treatment equipment with brand new apparatuses.
Town water, she added, is still safe to drink but has more iron in it than is preferred.
She also noted a group of people has been conducting an income survey in Culver in order to verify that at least 51 percent of Culver’s population is low to moderate income, a status she thinks will be attained by the survey.
The grant would only cover part of the project cost, with the remainder likely funded by a state revolving fund loan. Grant awards will be announced in August.
The council voted to approve application for the grant, and to allocate matching funds as required in order to apply.
In other discussion, Schoeff reported, during his town manager’s report, that an engineering firm inspected the town’s (currently empty) Lake Shore Drive water tower and discovered the inside coating of the tank is gone, though there is a hole inside. He noted an “extensive project” will be needed to properly and finally repair it.
In discussing the previous week’s public meeting regarding Culver’s nearly-complete comprehensive plan, Schoeff said a public hearing for the Culver plan commission to approve the plan is scheduled for June 17; it will come to the town council at its first meeting in July.
Schoeff also reported Lake Shore Drive does not qualify for federal grant money as previously hoped for by the council. He said the hope is for the street to be added to federal maps to facilitate its qualification in the future.
The Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs-funded grant to replace part of Culver’s storm water system on the west end of town is, according to Schoeff, “substantially complete,” with repaving the streets involved as the final step.
Approved by council was moving one of the two council chamber tables from town hall to the Culver fire station for use there, ahead of an overhaul of the chambers with new tables and a lectern; the second table will be offered to the Culver Public Library.
Also approved was purchase of 12 sludge bags for the town sewer plant, at a total of $6,000; $6,768 for removal of previously undetected concrete during work on the storm water project on Lake Shore Drive (the cost is covered under grant funds provided for the project); and $1,100 for extra digging to investigate a pipe connection in conjunction with the same project.
Approved was a claim for $88,284.25 with recommended retainage of $4,646, also part of the cost of the grant-funded storm water project.
The town will accept sealed bids June 10 for a flag pole currently at the fire department, Schoeff reported.
A work session was set for 5 p.m., prior to the council’s next meeting on May 27, to discuss a special events policy and presentation by What’s Up 24-7 regarding a town calendar.
The council approved a request by fire chief Terry Wakefield to repair one of the department’s main fire engines, at $3,612.89.
Wakefield also said the department would carry recently deceased, longtime fireman Glenn Whitmarsh to the cemetery by fire truck later that week.
The council gave its approval for a sign at the town park’s parking lot entrance banning vehicles with a gross weight of over 20,000 pounds, at the request of John Helphrey of the park board. Helphrey, noting the parking lot would soon be re-asphalted, said he observed a semi-truck parking there recently, which likely hastens the deterioration of the pavement.
During her clerk’s report, clerk treasurer Karen Heim’s request to add dental and life insurance to the plan approved at the previous council meeting was approved, as were invoices from Bachman Concrete for an ADA-compliant ramp at the intersection of State Street and Lake Shore Drive, at $1,450, and from Priority Project Resources for $3,000 for an environmental report.
The council decided to hold $8,000 in retainage prior to payment to consulting firm Houseal Lavigne, pending the firm’s completion of the town’s comprehensive plan. Heim noted the remaining bill for the plan is $16,231, out of which other entities are contributing to bring the town’s cost down to $8,000.
Also approved was payment to Commonwealth Engineers of $10,950, for 95 percent completion of their portion of the storm water project; the funds are provided via grant through OCRA, said Heim.
The council verified her request to close down a bank account intended to receive Paypal online funds for internet auction of surplus fire department equipment, which never took place, according to Heim.
A one-time waiver for the sewer portion of a water bill issued to Grant Munroe was also approved, with Ginny Munroe abstaining from the vote; the water was removed manually from the basement after a water leak, and allowed to run into the ground rather than the town sewer, Heim reported.
Four to five dumpsters full of trash were hauled away after the previous weekend’s town-wide cleanup, Schoeff reported. He also said a notable amount of that waste came from outside the Culver community, and some discussion ensued as to whether efforts should be made to prevent such activity, with no formal decision reached.
The council also gave a thumbs up to members of the Culver Lake Fest board who requested closure of Lake Shore Drive between State and Liberty Streets for the duration of the Saturday of the festival. Frank Elizondo of the board expressed great concern over the safety of pedestrians – especially children – due to the abundance of traffic at that location, where many cross the street to enter the town park-based festival.
Some concern was expressed as to how out-of-town drivers unfamiliar with Culver’s streets would navigate around the closure without creating traffic problems elsewhere. It was agreed notification in the newspaper of the change, for a few weeks prior to the event should take place.